This past week, almost 900 people gathered for our first ever WorshipGod West conference, held June 27-29 at Calvary Church of Santa Ana, CA. They came from as far away as Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Ireland, Canada, and Mexico. Some drove 18 hours to be there, others simply drove down the street.
Although this was a new location for a WorshipGod conference, we enjoyed many of the evidences of God’s grace we’ve seen in previous years. Ultimately, that was due to God’s kindness and the prayers of his people. Humanly speaking, it was due in large part to Sheri Goodrich and the generous staff of Calvary Church, the members of Sovereign Grace Church of Orange County (led by Eric Turbedsky), Paul Medler (Sovereign Grace Ministries conference coordinator), and my daughter/assistant, Brittany. I never tire of thanking God for the people I get to serve with.
Here’s an outline of what we experienced, with a few highlights.
The conference started Thursday morning with music led by my son, Devon, and his band, Norton Hall. Craig Cabaniss spoke from John 4 on the topic of being Faithful to Receive. He reminded us that true worship emerges from the Father’s pursuit of us not our pursuit of him and that we come to God by acceptance of a gift, not performance of deeds. I gave away a bunch of books and let everyone know they could nominate someone to receive a free iPad at the end of the conference by writing on a note card how that person exemplified faithfulness.
People could attend two seminars on Thursday, including one I called Rehearsals for the Real World, and Leading in Prayer with Kevin DeYoung. Just the day before I had received this text from Kevin: “I don’t want to alarm you, but I have an excruciatingly painful case of strep throat right now. I am on meds, but have not turned the corner yet…I can’t speak right now the pain is so intense. I have fever and sweats too.” Praise God for antibiotics and answered prayer.
Thursday night we gave away a bunch of books and CDs as well as an MBox recording set up and a $300 gift certificate to Guitar Center. John Martin and Enfield did a fantastic job leading us in song that night, and Kevin DeYoung spoke from 2 Cor. 4:1-6 on being Faithful to Proclaim. He asked if people in our church could hear and understand the gospel from our songs alone. He also encouraged us to pursue clarity in our meetings because, “You don’t want someone leaving your worship service saying, ‘Man, what was that all about?'”
Friday morning began with more giveaways, including an AKG microphone and a guitar amp/JHS pedals combo. Penitent Thieves, made up of Josh and Joel Sczebel and members of their church in Surrey, BC, led us in a gospel shaped group of songs that featured the sounds of violin, harmonica, and glockenspiel. Jon Payne gave a moving message from John 13 on being Faithful to Serve. He called us to watch Jesus, remember grace, and pursue humility and reminded us that if we’ve been given any kind of authority whatsoever, it is to wash feet.
Friday seminars included Don Whitney teaching on Praying from Scripture, Jon Payne on Cultivating the Gift of Encouragement, and Marty Machowski on Leading a Christ-Exalting Children’s Ministry. It was encouraging to see so many attendees hanging around to engage in conversation. One of the best parts of WorshipGod conferences.
Friday night began with more giveaways, including a Novation MiniNova keyboard and a Breedlove guitar. We also announced the 40 winners of a Battlefield snare drum, generously provided by Roger Kowalewski. We had the joy of having Matt Papa lead us in two songs, Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery and It Is Finished. I was glad to be able to introduce more people to Matt’s songwriting and passion for Jesus Christ. We were led in song by a band that included Ryan, Jonathan, and Meghan Baird and members from two California Sovereign Grace churches. I had the privilege of speaking on being Faithful to Grow, encouraging people to pursue excellence rooted in God’s grace.
On Saturday morning we announced the winner of the iPad that we chose from over 300 entries. Just reading through the testimonies of faithful people was a moving experience. God uses very ordinary people to do extraordinary things. We ended up giving the iPad to a woman who has served for 20 years on her tech team, whose husband had been diagnosed with cancer, and who recently donated her iPad to the church. I led the conference in song with a band that included members from three of the previous bands. Kevin DeYoung closed out the conference with a message on being Faithful to Prepare. It was a sobering and hopeful message from 2 Cor. 4:16-18, reminding us that “a lot of churches prepare people to live well; not many are preparing people to die well.” His message was filled with biblical wisdom for giving people hope in the midst of suffering, encouraging us to draw their attention to the greater glory yet to come. “We will not think, when we see Jesus, that we made too much of him.”
After Kevin finished, the band made its way up to the stage to lead two final songs. I was going to make a few transitional comments but found out my microphone didn’t work. Dave Wilcox, our tech director for the conference, ran down to bring me another mic. That didn’t work either. Finally we found one that worked. I told everyone we had actually planned the whole thing so it would feel more like what they experience in their church. Of course, I was lying. But it was kind of the Lord to remind us that our ultimate focus isn’t perfect services but a perfect Savior, whose glory sometimes comes through more clearly in our failures than our successes.
Looking back on the meaningful conversations, massively loud singing, laughter, and encounters with the living God we experienced at the conference, I’m overwhelmed with gratefulness. We’ve already started talking about hosting a WorshipGod West event next June, and will keep you posted.
In the mean time, we’re turning our eyes to WorshipGod East, taking place Aug. 1-3 (with pre-conference intensives on July 31) at Highview Baptist Church East in Louisville, KY. I’m excited that my church, Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, gets to host it. Online registration closes July 19, but the sooner you register the better opportunity you’ll have to attend the seminars of your choice.
Hope to see you there!